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AstraZeneca antibody drug prevents coronavirus symptoms, study shows

A late-stage study of an AstraZeneca antibody medicine shows the drug significantly reduces the risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms, the company announced on Friday.

The phase 3 clinical study showed that the drug — a combination of two long-acting antibodies — was able to reduce the risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms by 77 percent compared when given to patients who had not yet been exposed to the coronavirus. No patient who received the medicine, called AZD7442, developed the severe form of the disease. Meanwhile in the placebo arm three patients developed severe COVID-19, and two of them died.

The company said it would submit the results to a peer-reviewed journal and use them to support a regulatory filing for the drug.

AstraZeneca officials said that the drug could be particularly as a preventative treatment in patients for whom vaccines might not be very effective. Some patients with compromised immune systems, for example because they have received an organ transplant, have been shown to not react as effectively to COVID-19 vaccines.

Mene Pangalos, an AstraZeneca executive vice president, praised the results, and said that more tools were needed to help high-risk “not adequately protected by COVID-19 vaccines.”

The study outcome was based on the 25 cases of symptomatic COVID-19 that developed, from a total of 5,172 participants who weren’t positive for the coronavirus when the trial started. AstraZeneca said that over 75 percent of trial participants had comorbidities making them more susceptible to the virus

AZD7442 uses monoclonal antibodies, which mimick the body’s natural defences to target the virus. AstraZeneca said that the antibodies had been modified to make them more long-lasting, and could potentially “afford up to 12 months of protection from COVID-19 following a single administration.”

An earlier study of the drug, which looked at it as a treatment for COVID-19 in patients who had already been exposed to virus, yielded negative results in June.

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